Twitter and Facebook like to detonate every once in while about cooking and feminism, and there will always be that one person who says cooking is not about feminism. The thing is though, sometimes cooking is a feminist issue.
When MM and I were dating. He lived in Lagos, and I in Abuja. We took turns visiting each other every month. When he comes to stay with me, I usually had a fridge full of cooked food. Even then I hated cooking, but I was on a diet and was very extremely careful about what I ate. Thus, I’d rather cook my own food. I cooked once a month. I really only ate once a day, breakfast was cereal and dinner was fruit. So, I didn’t need to do much cooking. And he’d only spend a weekend with me at any rate, and we usually went out to visit people or just ate out when we weren’t eating in.
Him on the other hand couldn’t cook to save his life. He ate out all the time, when he isn’t eating Cerelac that is. When I’d visit, unless I suggested cooking, we’d eat out. It seemed all good. I suppose he assumed since I didn’t make a fuss about cooking, that it wasn’t going to be an issue for me. On my own part, because he never steered me to the kitchen “to prove my wife material” like most men did, I assumed cooking was never going to be a problem. We were both unpleasantly surprised.
When we got married, I discovered my husband expected me to cook all the time. I mean all the time. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Pack-food-for-him-to-go-to-work-with all the time. What’s more, he wanted me to cook ONLY the way he liked it. He had a loooooooong list of requirements and wouldn’t bulge on it. Food had to be cooked exactly the way he wanted it, and now he had a wife he didn’t have to compromise anymore. He wasn’t experimental too; a wife means he doesn’t have to worry about being served something strange. No kitchen practicals, thank you. He sha quickly realized that he was being extremely foolish with such expectation.
I tried sha, I no go lie. I tried. You know in the beginning, you’re trying to do well; you don’t want to fail so soon. I did that wife material shit for about 3 months, but I just had to tell myself the truth – some things are not for me. Kai, I was always resentful (there are two people in this household, why does one person’s taste buds have to count over the other?) I did not take any pleasure whatsoever in cooking (one time we had a big blow out. Why? I asked why he couldn’t bloody say thank you when I give him food. He said why should he thank me? I said oh, you won’t thank me bah, but you’d open mouth, eat what I cooked and treat it as if it’s no biggie for me to cook it?).
I was combative (sometimes, I’d just rebel and cook what I wanted even though I knew he’d frown. If he refused the food, WW2! Because hell to the no am I entering that kitchen again! If he eats the food, but keeps a sour face throughout – as he did – I will reward him with silence treatment. He’d say he doesn’t mind if I bought cooked food from elsewhere or used a caterer, but then all he’d do is complain about the food. So, I’d end up doing all the cooking – and with the anger and bile inside me.
For three years, this was a HUGE problem. We didn’t fight about money. We didn’t fight about sex. He didn’t drink, club or fill the house with his relatives. He didn’t keep late nights. My husband goes to work, comes back home. No suspicious texts or calls of any kind. We didn’t even fight about child rearing at much. But food? Constantly! Neither of us was willing to let up. I remember this day, we were driving down Silver Bird Cinemas and we were arguing about cooking (for the umpteenth time). Mister opened mouth and uttered an abomination, “why did I marry you?” I flared up. Mistake, I cried! You should have told me you were marrying me to become cook, so I would have immediately rejected you. I wish you’d told me this before we married, then we would have saved ourselves all the trouble.
But the marvelous thing we both did right was, in all this time, we never took the quarrels outside. We’d fight and reconcile, all on our own, never any outside intervention. We’ve never had a fight, no matter how bitter, that required someone else to come in for us to make up. It’s never happened.
Anyway, 2014 I came back to the UK, and it was as if I was married to a different husband. This man that before would die on top say I didn’t boil white rice to the exact consistency he likes, suddenly didn’t care again. No more night food, he declared. In fact, when he comes home at night from work, he goes into the kitchen to make Quaker oats for himself. Or eat bread. Or even sef, he’d come home with a bottle of groundnut so he can drink garri.
It was as if someone underwent brain transplant, the part of him obsessed with his wife cooking for him completely tossed aside. I asked him what happened to him. He said he’s too old to be squabbling with me over pettiness. It’s much easier to cook now. It wasn’t the unpleasant chore it used to be. I really only cook weekends, which is still more cooking than I’d like but I do it cos he has compromised and so, I do too.
So, what does feminism have to do with it? Well, it was feminism that gave me the impetus to keep fighting against the expectation that my job as a wife was to cook. And feminism gave him the sense to know that a wife who doesn’t like cooking is still a wife.
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